Monthly Archives: July 2015

Flying Sea Turtle Honeymoon Express Leaves Vancouver on Schedule

Everybody climb aboard the Flying Sea Turtle Honeymoon Express!

Everybody climb aboard the Flying Sea Turtle Honeymoon Express!

At last I can reveal what I’ve been doing with every free second in which I had the ability to focus during the last 10 days! It’s a mosaic collage for my sister and brother-in-law! The had a civil ceremony on Tuesday, and their big wedding is going to be tomorrow. I haven’t given them this gift yet, but I can’t imagine my sister will be spending a lot of time on the Internet the day before she gets married.

I had a bunch of other ideas for their gift, but everything fell through and making something cool was the only reasonable option. I chose a sea turtle because I know they like turtles, and a Vancouver-inspired backdrop because that’s where they live.

You can't really see my pencil marks but I assure you I wasn't making this up as I went along.

You can’t really see my pencil marks but I assure you I wasn’t making this up as I went along.

I started out by purchasing a bunch of origami paper and this 11×14 board. I sketch out the islands in pencil, tore up the blue paper, sketched out the turtle on notebook paper (you can see a bit of it in the upper right hand corner) and generally chose colors for things.

Scenery coming together.

Scenery coming together.

Using matte medium, I began to mount the squares onto the board to form a background representing mountainous islands and their reflection in the water. I used a bunch of metallic and foil papers, which don’t photograph that well, because their colors change depending on the light. I would sort of like to make a shirt out of this design, but I’m not certain how well it will translate.

The turtle isn't mounted yet, but I needed to keep checking that it fit.

The turtle isn’t mounted yet, but I needed to keep checking that it fit.

Then I began the turtle. Using my original sketch, I cut out a silhouette, and then I created stencils for the individual pieces of the turtle by slowing dismantling the sketch. You can see the diminished remains of the sketch to the right. The metallic background paper is orange, with green streaks if you turn it in the light.


I’m a delightful creature!

Here, the turtle is complete. Just the details on each flipper took about 20 minutes. The turtle itself probably took 4 or 5 hours. It wasn’t as easy to do such fine work as it used to be; my body doesn’t want to sit for that long at a stretch, and my eyes don’t want to focus on tiny details, and my hands tire easily, especially cutting small pieces like the skin texture. Now the sketch is in 50 pieces scattered all over the office.

Somehow I neglected to photograph the process for the man and woman riding the turtle, but if you scroll back up you can see them, although I wonder if their colors ought to be brighter and more contrasting. Well, like everything, I learned a lot. If I did it again, it would be different and possibly better, but there’s no way I could do this again. Maybe another animal.

So, all in all, the completed project probably took close to 20 hours. I lose track of time when I’m working. Sometimes I have to keep Netflix playing, even though I’m not watching, just so I have a way to mark the passage of time and remind me how many hours I’ve been sitting there.

Congratulate my sister on her nuptials if you know her!

Look but Don’t Touch Mandala

Nature isn't interested in your idea of perfection and neither am I.

Nature isn’t interested in your idea of perfection and neither am I.

I get the sense that if you saw this plant in nature, your first instinct would be to reach out for it, upon which it would probably secrete some kind of digestive fluid on your skin and try to eat you. At the very least, it must be covered with a rash-producing oil. It’s fancy in order to lure you in.

It probably also eats bugs, and small frogs, from which it acquires the necessary chemical to produce its poison.

Obviously, it’s very late or I wouldn’t be sitting here making up stories about drawings of things that don’t exist. I think I had an article about comic book scholarship on Panels yesterday, but I don’t have the link as I’m writing this. Also, I received an ARC of Bonnie Jo Campbell’s new book, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters, which I’ve been asked to review for the Fondulac Library’s website, which is sort of strange considering I’ve never even been to Fondulac and don’t live anywhere near East Peoria. I do know a lot of people, many of whom are librarians and/or authors, though.

If you haven’t read Bonnie Jo Campbell, you should consider it. This book isn’t being released until October, I think, but her other work is most likely available in your public library.

The Pancake Paradox

I assure you, god does not play dice with breakfast.

I assure you, god does not play dice with breakfast.

It’s universal, and the lighter and fluffier your pancakes are, the more pervasive the problem. You get the perfect amount of butter and syrup spread evenly across your meal. There is just as much flavor on one bite as there is on another. And yet, a few minutes later, you need more. You can’t taste it; your pancake might as well be a piece of white bread. The pancake has soaked up all the excess syrup on the plate, and yet you clearly need more.

I especially like how the test subject is the one volunteering to go to Costco, although, after I drew panel 3 I realized that Costco doesn’t carry Mrs. Butterworth’s. You can only get pure maple (that’s what we use) or Log Cabin. However, Mrs. Butterworth’s is clearly the funnier brand name, so let’s call it comedic poetic license.

Also, the scientists are kind of half-baked, because I have a headache and couldn’t focus well enough to redraw them more sharply when I moved them to the foreground. So, while I’m pleased with the joke, it’s just a small one, and not my best illustration work.

Anyway: comic. Laugh. Like. Share.

The Living Reef

It's even better if you can imagine David Attenborough gleefully narrating the death throes of one sea creature as another organism devours it: "The speckled spitfish thrusts its meager stingers in all directions, but it is too late. The tentacled pseudoblob has already begun the digestion process."

It’s even better if you can imagine David Attenborough gleefully narrating the death throes of one sea creature as another organism devours it: “The speckled spitfish thrusts its meager stingers in all directions, but it is too late. The tentacled pseudoblob has already begun the digestion process.”

One of the first digital paintings I ever completed was Eilat, Coral Reef Nature Reserve, August 1999, which has its merits, all things considered, but looking back it’s almost funny. I was working off a photograph for that one, but I had not yet learned how to use layers, or basically any tool other than the brush and the color picker. I didn’t even know how to change brushes at that point, or opacity, or begun experimenting with brush modes. I never did feel 100% satisfied with that picture. I don’t mind things being deliberately rough, but in that case, I simply lacked the knowledge to take it where it needed to go.

That was 11 months ago.

This image does help me see how far I’ve come; it’s not even based on a photo. I didn’t use any reference images at all. The fish are all just bits of color that I played with until they took shape. The entire painting is basically bits of color smeared around. It’s one of my favorite things in Photoshop right now; the blur took can take the roughest image and make it look more real.

(Or, as in yesterday’s comic, it can take a more realistic image and make it look more fake.)

Some of it was probably also inspired by David Attenborough’s The Blue Planet, which is a really lovely thing to watch before bed as long as creatures eating other creatures doesn’t upset you.

The red fish is my absolute favorite. It looks perfect and I would look at it carefully before I drew another fish to see what made it work.

Another thing that’s happened since I got the Wacom tablet is that my brain has begun to dissect light everywhere. Understanding how light works when it falls on objects inspired a big leap for me in taking my work out of the purely flat realm and giving it greater dimensionality. I only tried to use realistic light and darkness in small doses here, but it really changes the character of the image.

Pictures from the 123rd Annual Meeting of the International Cryptozoology Association

Not pictured: Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, Abominable Snowman, and Skunk Ape. Best session of the weekend!

Not pictured: Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, Abominable Snowman, and Skunk Ape. Best session of the weekend!

If you don’t get it, then query “Bigfoot” or “Loch Ness Monster on Google Image Search. It’s just a little joke. That’s all I wanted to tell today.

We used to report a lot of cryptozoology news on the defunct website, In the Weird. I’m sorry I let the domain expire, because we had done some cool stuff there. At one point we had a dozen regular contributors and were regularly getting 100s of hits a day. Even after we still updating the site, it was still seeing about 500 visitors a week. I’ve been thinking about hosting some of the content on this blog, at least some of my favorite posts. It’s very different stuff from what I would write now, much darker and more sarcastic than what I do here. I guess I thought that when the domain expired the content would still be available as a Blogger blog, but apparently I would have to reupload every single post, and there were many posts.

My big project is about 90% done, and should be visible here on Friday. It’s coming out pretty well even if it’s taking 4 times as long as I intended. Only one more complicated piece and then 2 more easy bits.

It’s a flat, 2-dimensional work that I’m giving as a gift, and tonight a woman suggested that the best way to get a cheap frame is to go to a thrift store and buy an ugly painting of the same size. Brilliant.


For my followup, I guess I'll have to vent a spleen.

For my followup, I guess I’ll have to vent a spleen.

This one might be a bit abstract. I guess it either works or it doesn’t.

It’s true that I know I don’t completely suck due to the fact that I sometimes get personalized rejection letters, and sometimes agents or publishers write me back once or twice before ignoring me, and every once in a while someone actually enjoys my fiction enough to pay for it. It’s sort of like being in the top 1% in a field where only the top .01% really succeed.

I really wanted to do a funny 1-panel comic tonight, but my ideas were either not funny or not 1-panel. My brain was in the mundane sphere due to the fact that I remembered, just as I was about to start working on my project, that my car registration needed to be renewed, and that if I didn’t go down to the DMV and get my emissions tested right that very minute, there was an extremely strong chance that I would soon be driving around with expired tags. That ate up about an hour of my life, after which I needed to do other mundane things like acquire food.

Passing emissions also reminded me that Honda had recently sent a notice that all my airbags were being recalled because they had been suddenly proven to be deadly projectile weapons that would just as soon shoot bits of metal into your chest as to save your life. But at that point I really didn’t have time to deal with the situation. So it’s entirely possible that my car is going to kill me, but at least I can prove to the government that it’s not spewing too much poison into the air.

Tropical Mandala

Feel the salt breeze in your mind.

Feel the salt breeze in your mind.

This is, of course, a flowery-type mandala in soft shades of pink, blue, and green. It’s totally wild and not interested in your rigid ideals of symmetry. It probably smells narcotic. Insects hurl themselves into its fragrant depths.

I’m still working on my big project; clearly, it’s going to take a lot longer than I anticipated. Hopefully it ends up looking something like what’s in my head. Maybe one day in the future I’ll have the ability to focus on my work for more than a couple hours a day, because I have way more projects going on than I’m capable of paying attention to. It’s taken me 3 days to get to the place I probably would have gotten in 3 hours in the past.

Hopefully I can get in 2 more good hours today.

Microclimate Change Deniers

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a meeting of anti-vacuumers to get to.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting of anti-vacuumers to get to.

Back in elementary school, in the very early ’80s, I remember hearing about global climate change for the first time. I was probably in second grade, and our class was talking about the future. (Speculating about the year 2000 was a popular diversion in the ’80s.) My project for this unit was building a model of the moon base that we were supposed to have by 2000, and just thinking about such a distant time was very exciting.

Even back then I was a skeptic, and I recall listening to the discussion of how industrial pollution combined with the greenhouse effect could raise the temperature of the earth by a noticeable amount and thinking, “Well, I’m going to wait and see before I believe that one.”

After 30 years of observation, I’ve determined that global climate change is undeniable to me, and I don’t get how anyone who’s been alive more than 20 years can pretend that things haven’t changed. Do you know how hard it is to get 97% of scientists in a particular field to agree on any new idea? I mean, you can wave the correlation-does-not-equal-causality flag all day if it pleases you, but you have to admit that hurricanes, tornados, blizzards, earthquakes, floods, and heat waves are happening with greater frequency/intensity. You don’t even have to admit that this has anything to do with human activity, but you do have to admit that it’s happening.

And yet some people don’t.

This is baffling to me. A recent issue of National Geographic addressed what seems, in America, like a basic war on science, but the concept that a person’s religious faith or political belief could dictate their perception of observable phenomena remains perplexing. Large freighters are navigating the Northwest Passage. The entire population of an island in Papua New Guinea was forced to relocate because their home is now underwater. Sugar maple production in New England has dropped measurably.

If you honestly believe that there is no such thing as climate change, you’re hanging your laundry in the rain.

I have a headache and now you can have one too

Alien world or weird filter? You be the judge.

Alien world or weird filter? You be the judge.

One of the hardest parts of drawing webcomics, for me, is the constant staring into the screen. My eyes, as I’ve written before, do not work all that well. They certainly don’t work like normal people’s eyes, and sometimes they betray me. Migraines, nausea, that sort of thing. When I was just writing 4 or 6 hours a day, it didn’t bother me, because I touch type, and by and large I don’t look at the monitor anyway, but I’m a much better typist than artist, and drawing a hand, or something like that, means squinting at the pixels and erasing and redrawing and shifting perspective, zooming in and out and erasing and redrawing again.

I’ve got a big analog project I want to tackle, which I will share when it’s ready, and tonight seems like a good time to start. No webcomic, no eye strain. There will be tiny scraps of fancy paper involved, but they won’t be backlit.

Instead, feel free to enjoy this weird portentous beach scene I painted about a year ago. My painting always looks pretty rough and experimental, because it is. I know nothing about painting. If I could afford it, I would take a class, at least something basic about technique, because I’d love to paint more, but it’s an incredibly expensive past time.

For that reason, I’ll probably be sticking to my Wacom tablet. You can have any size canvas, and any color paint, and it’s free.

Rejection Collection

Jack also collects life experiences, but he can't sell those. Not in this market, anyway.

Jack also collects life experiences, but he can’t sell those. Not in this market, anyway.

Almost 1000 people clicked on Friday’s PTSD comic; of course my best reception would be for the worst things that have ever happened to me. I’m thrilled that it resonated with so many people, but it also re-traumatized me to write it. I thought maybe today’s comic could be a little bit more upbeat. Just a little

Jack is not the only person who frames his quest for acceptance by asking to be rejected. There’s some science there about giving yourself permission to fail in order to work your way into succeeding. There’s strong research on this, and yet it’s still kind of a hard concept to embrace.

Personally, I’m terrible at dealing with rejection. I have too many negative childhood memories of being rejected. Asking for more rejection when I’ve finally gotten to a point where it doesn’t happen otherwise feels dangerous.My collection of “Thanks but no thanks” letter from publishers is substantially smaller than Jack’s and so is my “works published” list. Jack is a good inspiration, but it’s hard to keep up with him sometimes. Still, that’s what it takes, sometimes: a relentless pursuit of ones goals.

In addition to a massive collection of rejection letters and a substantial list of published stories, Jack also owns an old card catalog, or at least he’s the custodian of this unwieldy but awesome piece of furniture, for which I also envy him.

If there’s not a spec fic magazine called Unusual Anecdotes, there should be.